The Complicated Lives of Mothers and Children

Motherhood is Complicated. A picture of Levi and me.

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

May 21, 2020

I have a 13-year-old boy. My husband and I love our son terribly, and we didn’t plan out every detail of his existence. Namely that he would be here. So, in 2007, he came into this world a bundle of joy and moderate health problems. This was my introduction to very specific challenges facing women in child-rearing, default work, default care, and ultimately, the price of motherhood. Namely, I learned that motherhood is complicated.

Learning the Price of Motherhood

First, I faced some very specific challenges that interrupted my ideals. I wanted an all-natural birth, breastfeed until he was at least six months old, eat organic food all of the time, never use formula, enroll him in a child care center that would meet him at his needs, and balance easily my work desires, being a mother, and being a wife. 

Realty crashed in fast. My commitment to an all-natural birth was disrupted by a stalled labor. Undiagnosed Grave’s Disease ruined the idea of breastfeeding and brought on failure to thrive. Eating organic all the time was caught in the face of harsh budget realities. We had to use formula because I couldn’t breastfeed. And, the final cruelty – I should have planned perhaps years in advance if I wanted my son to have a secure spot in preschool or daycare. 

Motherhood is complicated. And, as a collective, we are not making choices to support mothers, families, and those who care for our children. After my son was 2 years old, I was ready again to go out into the workforce. I found a temporary job, which was fine for me, except it paid $12/hour. My husband’s schedule at the time I started working was such that we didn’t need any kiddo care, until a month into the job, his schedule changed. And, then we had to scramble. 

I found out that you needed to be on a waiting list. I found that the type of care I wanted felt hard to come by, and I found out the rates were expensive. We landed on a place we both trusted that had what we wanted, and it cost $9/hour. 

I made $12 per hour. The cost of care in 2009 was $9 per hour. Was I even earning any money after taxes at my job? 

I learned: motherhood is complicated.

It was a temporary job, and it ended one month before it was scheduled, and that brought in a new set of hurdles. The child care center, like any business, wants predictability, and they had wanted a one-month notice. I didn’t get a one-month notice my job was ending. So, how I was I to give them a one-month notice about ending care?

Motherhood is Complicated

Motherhood is so complicated. And securing care for our kids is also complicated.

I persisted, as I have always tried to do. And, the next year, I found a part-time job. The job was 20 miles away from home. My schedule was going to be from 9 am-1 pm. We had to choose between a care facility that was close to where I worked or close to home. The in-home center close to home offered organic lunch and was run by a lovely couple. The franchise-center close to work provided no lunch, had a secure outdoor play structure, and offered a lot of sensory options for budding preschoolers. We chose the place close to work because we would be able to honor the drop-off and pick up times without financial penalty. Both places cost about the same for 20 hours a week of preschool – “tuition” with a price tag of around $900 per month.

It’s important to note that it’s “tuition”, because the kiddo is going to school. So, schools have  in-service days and holidays off that I didn’t have off. That meant ADDED childcare I didn’t even know I needed to plan for. And it all came out of my pocket. 

I learned quickly, I was paying for the “privilege” to go to work. And, that doesn’t even account for paying for the gas to get to work and the loans I desperately (still) need to pay off. 

Motherhood is complicated. Childcare is complicated.

It was a conundrum I never thought I would be in. I just wanted to do good work, do it for a great company, do it well with a group of great people. (That’s another post for another time.) 

My Story isn’t Just My Story

This story is my story, and as I reread my words and relive these memories, many emotions are triggered. Yet, I am not alone. Here are some childcare stats to consider: 

  • 7 out of 10 Oregon mothers with young children work for pay 
  • 3 out of 5 Oregonians live in a child care desert 
  • $52,000 is the average 2018 Oregon all-industry annual salary
  • $30,400 is the average 2018 Oregon preschool teacher salary 
  • $26,740 is the average 2018 Oregon child care worker salary 

The women who took care of my son were amazing. It turns out that 95% of Oregon’s child care workforce is female. I loved getting to know each of them. And, then I learned that if they were listed as an assistant, they probably made $10/hour. And, the classroom leads made $15/hour. So, is it a surprise that turnover for Oregon child care workers is 25-30% . 

And, most horrifically, 53% of child care works rely on the social safety net (Food Stamps, Medicaid, EITC, TANF, or other public benefits).

Since I’ve loaded you with statistics, I want you to consider that the 

  • Average annual statewide rent is $12,145, while the
  • Average annual cost for 2 kiddos in child care is $23,677, and when we compare that to college, the 
  • Median statewide cost of attending University of Oregon: $1,200/month or $14,400/annually 

I learned the Price of Motherhood is very high. I made sacrifices to my career, my ability to pay off debt, and I always question if I’ve been able to give my son the best care possible. We can do better than this. 

WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS. We owe it to each other and our kids to do better than this. Gratefully, there are organizations that believe this too. One such organization is Family Forward Oregon. And child-care is at the heart of their current work. Family Forward started in 2009 by moms who saw this grim reality, and they decided to work together to change it. I have just shared my child care story with you. And, now I would like you to do the same. Share your child care story with Family Forward so we can be one step closer to being better together, honoring our mothers and care givers, and providing for a better future for our kids.



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